Economy be damned: Your workers still expect a hefty raise this year

Apr 2, 2024 2:36 am | News

Sixty percent of organizations are now sharing salary ranges on their job listings, according to the 2024 Compensation Best Practices Report from compensation software firm Payscale. That’s a 15% year-over-year jump. The biggest challenge for companies today, per the Seattle-based firm’s report, is compensation. Namely: Despite a tight job market and record-high inflation, workers are still gunning for better and better pay. That concern comes ahead of recruiting, retention and engagement for their employers. 

“While the economy may be in flux, employee expectations have not swayed,” Payscale’s chief people officer Lexi Clarke wrote in the report, which surveyed nearly 6,000 HR company managers. “Transparent pay practices and meaningful raises are now table stakes to attract and retain top talent, but many organizations are falling behind as legislation is only accelerating.” 

Half of companies lack a compensation strategy or firm messaging on the reasoning behind their pay, which is a problem, because employee engagement “hinges on workers understanding the ‘what’ and ‘why’” behind their salaries, Clarke said. 

Even worse, despite the pronounced desire for better compensation, fewer organizations are planning on shelling out. (Seventy-nine percent said they plan on giving raises, against last year’s 86%.) On average, companies are planning for a 4.5% base pay increase; last year’s average was 4.8%.  

Maybe companies have reason not to sweat: Last year’s rate of reported voluntary turnover was 21%, Payscale found, a 4% year-over-year drop. That’s all the evidence bosses need that it’s an employer’s market, and they can probably get away with being less generous.

In direct response to the pay-transparency boom, more and more workers are asking questions about their pay, companies told Payscale. That’s led, predictably, to some unrest. 

Fourteen percent of companies say some of their workers have left because they saw an ad for a similar position offering higher pay elsewhere—and 11% saw higher paying roles listed within the company itself. Indeed, pay transparency can be a double-edged sword, but the risks of bad feelings are considerably lower if companies prioritize fairness to begin with.

The best of the rest

When it comes to the three pillars of workplace future-proofing—artificial intelligence, skills-based hiring, and flexible work—trying to stave off the inevitable is never a sustainable approach, and Payscale’s findings confirm it. (“If we were to capture how to approach 2024 in one phrase, it might be ‘cautious optimism,’” Payscale’s research team wrote.)

Each of those three pillars come back to fairness and equity, and each, when executed correctly, can make workplaces fairer places to be. 

“Fair pay is the bedrock of compensation strategy, yet alarmingly, more than a quarter of employers are not proactive about correcting pay disparities,” Ruth Thomas, a pay equity strategist at Payscale, wrote in the report. “We’re seeing forward-thinking companies, on the other hand, make adjustments for external and internal pay equity, pay compression, and competitive skills—while diversifying their workforce by removing barriers to entry like degree requirements.”

Just shy of half (49%) of HR leaders are optimistic about AI in their workplace; their top concern is that AI would stand to worsen existing biases rather than mitigate them. Just 7% of HR leaders would feel completely comfortable letting AI carry out pay-related decisions.

On the skills front, over a third (34%) have removed college-degree requirements from their salaried job postings. Just 22% of firms say a college degree is a requirement for all of their salaried positions this year—a sizable improvement, and part of a rapidly building skills-first wave.

Then there’s remote work, which is considerably less of a threat than most bosses may fear. Just 11% of the employers Payscale surveyed are fully remote—the same share as last year. But there’s still lessons to be learned among that small group: The voluntary turnover rate at fully remote companies is 13%, compared to 16% at hybrid workplaces and 30% for fully in-person companies. 

It’s well known that replacing a strong performer is harder (and costlier) work than paying them what they want, so the Payscale report takeaway for employers might be two-fold: Pay your workers above market rate, and if they want to, let them work from home.

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